Big Chicks Receives Victory

Tue. May 11, 2004 12:00 AM by Kevin Wayne

Big Chicks Bill Passes State House and Senate

Chicago, IL - Michelle Fire’s popular Big Chicks received a victory last week in a long fought battle to remain open. The predominantly gay and lesbian bar is in danger of losing its liquor license and being forced to close after Chicago officials said the bar located at 5024 N. Sheridan Rd. violates state liquor laws because it operates within 100 feet of a synagogue.

The Big Chicks House bill to amend the statute, introduced by State Representative Larry McKeon (D-Chicago) and carried to the Illinois State Senate by State Senator Carol Ronen (D-Chicago), cleared the State Senate on a 36-15 vote on May 5. The bill previously passed the Illinois House in March.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) is expected to sign the measure which would allow Big Chicks to remain open.

The problem began Last November, when Big Chicks owner Michelle Fire applied for a liquor license for her new restaurant, Tweet, located adjacent to the bar. Though Big Chicks has operated in the same storefront for 24 years, Chicago city inspectors never notice the Uptown bar was in violation of a 1936 state liquor law concerning proximity to schools and houses of worship. The violation wasn’t noticed until the application for Tweet was being processed by the city.

The synagogue located within the 100 feet radius to Big Chicks, Agudas Achim, 5029 N. Kenmore Avenue, has never objected to the bar.

As news of Big Chick’s impeding closure was announced on and through other media in November 2003 (Story), many in the Chicago’s GLBT community jumped to action.

Fire gained support from McKeon, Ronen, Representative Harry Osterman, 48th Ward Alderman Mary Ann Smith, Alderman Helen Shiller, 48th Ward Chief of Staff Greg Harris, Committeemen Mike Volini and Sandra Reed.

Smith’s 48th Ward Office, which includes Big Chicks, received over 1,000 letters within days of the announcement. An online petition to save Big Chicks has received close to 6,000 signatures.
(Save Big Chicks Online Petition)

Fire has vowed to fight to stay open because she believes her business is an important part of the Uptown neighborhood and the GLBT community.